Dear Kevin: A Father’s Day Letter to my Ex-Husband

Dear Kevin,

I know it probably seems strange to be writing a letter to my ex-husband. Especially with my current husband in the same room. But I think he understands.

None of us have ever been very traditional, have we?

With Father’s Day coming up, I just felt like I needed to tell you some things. So I decided to put them in a letter.

Since I last saw you, I’ve been thinking so much about what a good father you always were to our kids. Again, we certainly weren’t very traditional. As extremely young parents, I was the one who worked and tried to finish school while you stayed home with the babies. Because of that, you actually knew them better than I did. Especially when they were younger. I remember how it used to cause you so much pride that they would want their daddy instead of me when they were sick. And, even though there was a little jealousy in that for me, I admittedly kind of liked it too. You were just so darn good with them. You always seemed to know instinctively what they needed.

I remember hearing so many other women griping about how much they had to do with the kids and around the house while their husbands were never involved. That seemed like such a foreign concept to me. Your kids were your world.

And that never changed.

How lucky I was.

As is the case with so many young marriages, ours didn’t last. We divorced when the kids were 2 and 4. We sure had some rocky years in there, didn’t we?  Good lord, the fights!  And ironically, most of them were centered around who got the kids and when. Again, I’d hear the divorced women complaining that their kids never saw their daddies, but that was certainly not the case with us. You wanted them all the time. I had to fight you every step of the way. Not in court, though. We never did that, and I’m grateful. We just eventually figured it out on our own. As we were teaching them to share, we finally learned how to do it ourselves.

The older the kids got, the less we fought. I’m not sure why that happened.  I guess it was a mixture of them being old enough to make their own decisions and us just growing up a little ourselves. Then, once the fighting stopped, we discovered something that we probably knew from the beginning.

We were actually really good friends.

I can’t count the times we were there for one another. Both of us took turns running low on funds and we’d help each other out when we could. When my short-lived second marriage fell apart, you let me come spend a few nights at your house until I could figure out what I was going to do. In so many ways, you were my closest friend.

And I tried to return the favor.  You hated for people to know it, but you had muscular dystrophy. The older you got, the less you were able to hide it.  Eventually, your ability to walk in public became more and more compromised and you started having to use the wheelchair that you had dreaded your whole life. But you accepted it. You did it.

And you just kept smiling.

Eventually you started needing more help with things. I remember when my husband Richard and I first got together, I was scared that he wouldn’t understand our closeness and how important it was to me to help you when I could. (My second husband definitely didn’t get it.) Once he figured it out though, not only did he understand why I was doing it, he actually joined in.  He liked helping you.

He liked you.

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who didn’t.

I wonder sometimes if you know that he sang at your funeral?

Okay, there. I said it.

Your funeral.

I know I hadn’t mentioned that yet. I like writing this letter as if you’d be able to read it. I like to imagine just sending it to you in a Facebook message or something like we always did.

I look back over our messages sometimes. I can’t believe how much we talked!  Everything that ever happened with our kids, we’d run it by each other. “Have you talked to Kelly today?” “How’s Jeff feeling today?” “Do the kids need anything?” “Are they okay?”

Until something is missing, I don’t think you can fully understand what a huge part of your life it was.

We had the opportunity that most people don’t get when they lose someone. We got the chance to say goodbye. We knew we were losing you. The hospital sent you home to be surrounded by your loved ones because they knew there was nothing left to be done.

For the last three months of your life, I lived with you part time. So many people didn’t understand that. Or, worse, they treated me like some kind of hero for being there for you. Honestly, it was a little embarrassing. I wasn’t doing anything for you that you wouldn’t do for me. We both know that. You needed help, and I helped you.

You passed away holding my hand. Do you know that? I felt like it was just you and me in the whole world. It was so silent. It was early in the morning and everyone else was taking their turns sleeping while it was my turn to sit by you. You hadn’t spoken for days but I continued to speak to you anyway. I had just been whispering in your ear what an amazing daddy you were and how grateful I was for every moment I had you in my life. Just as I finished telling you how sorry I was for all of the early tumult in our life together, your chest stopped moving.

It was just silence.

So much silence.

So many years earlier, you were holding my hand as our favorite people took their first breaths on this earth, so it seemed only fitting that I should hold yours as you took your last.

I was honored.

Do you know that?

I don’t know if you can still hear anything I say, but I just wanted to get this out. I wish you were here. I miss you.

I want to tell you so many things. Our kids get along now. Can you believe that!? After all of those years of thinking they’d hate each other forever, they have really helped each other through losing you. They spend a lot of time together. Jeff has even gotten Kelly watching basketball with him. I hear them both yelling at the refs. You’d love it.

In a way, they kind of remind me of me and you. They see the world in totally different ways sometimes, and boy can they fight like cats and dogs, but in the end – they love each other. And they’re there for each other when things get rough. They’re family.

Just like we were.

Like we’ll always be.

Wherever you are tonight, Kevin, I hope you know that your kids are okay. They really are. They miss you. And Father’s Day is going to be hard on them. It’ll be hard on all of us. But we’ll be okay. We have each other and we’re doing our best.

They are doing their best.

I’m doing my best. And, honestly, I have you to thank for that. You taught me how to love even through the hardest of times.

I’m a better person because I knew you.

You are missed. You are loved. And you are remembered.

Happy Father’s Day, my friend.

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